Disabled Children Experience the Joy of Running

Non-profit organization makes racing possible for kids with physical limitations.
Runner’s World Magazine – By Michelle Hamilton; Image by Michael Friberg Published
July 1, 2014

At the start of a 5-K in Eagle Mountain, Utah, a group of kids rock excitedly in their strollers. “They’re always eager to get going,” says runner Charles Stoddard. The children won’t take a step in this race–that’s the task of volunteers like Stoddard, who push the kids in jogging strollers at various events near Salt Lake City.

Stoddard and 6-year-old Elizabeth Robison are among 14 child-runner teams geared up to get moving this chilly morning in March. The kids all have various disabilities. Many, like Elizabeth, suffer from cerebral palsy. As the mass of runners move down the mountain, Elizabeth grins. She’s unable to speak, but a few of the kids shout what organizers say is the group’s collective mantra: “Faster! Go faster!”

Helping kids experience the thrill of racing was exactly what Andrew McMahon had in mind when he conceived Push to the Finish two years ago. McMahon, 37, saw a wheelchair-bound child on the sidelines of a race a few years ago, and an image came to mind of the Hoyts–the father-and-son duo who have completed more than a thousand road races with Dick, the father, pushing Rick, a quadriplegic, in a wheelchair. “I went home and asked my wife, ‘How can we get more disabled kids racing?'” says McMahon, a director of college outreach and father of three able-bodied girls. A few phone calls later, McMahon had three kids, three runners, and a race welcoming their participation.

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Triathletes give special needs children the chance to compete

By Amy Donaldson, Deseret News – COALVILLE — Reese Thorne can’t walk, let alone run 3.2 miles. The 10-year-old can’t ride a bike or swim a single stroke.

But Saturday morning, he crossed the finish line of TriUtah’s 13th annual Echo Triathlon at Echo Reservoir thanks to an elite athlete named Amber Foster. She pushed and pulled a specially designed stroller carrying Thorne through each leg of the race.

“I’m his legs,” Foster said of the 10-year-old who was born at 24 weeks with cerebral palsy and a rare genetic disorder called PCH type 2, which usually results in death by age 2. “Reese loves to race.”

In fact, he loves it so much, he was in tears awaiting the start of the 6:30 a.m. event in which a group of athletes and five special needs children completed a sprint distance triathlon (which is a half-mile swim, 20-mile bike ride and 3.2-mile run).

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Positive pushes: Program pairs runners with disabled children for unique racing experience

Deseret News – Front Page Sports Section – By Amy Donaldson – July 9, 2013

Reese Thorne cannot walk or talk, but he loves to race.

“When you say, ‘Do you want to go racing?’ he gets so excited his whole body starts moving and shaking,” said Carla Thorne of her 9-year-old son. “He loves to go fast. What little boy doesn’t want to go fast?”

Thorne is able to race because of runners like Charles Stoddard. The 37-year-old heard about an organization called Push to the Finish from a friend and fellow runner, Angela Green. Push to the Finish, an 18-month-old nonprofit, was started by Andrew McMahon, who was simply looking for a way to bring the joy of running to those who otherwise might never experience it.

“I’ve been a runner my entire life,” said McMahon, a 37-year-old father of two. “I thought, ‘What if we could take different charities for the disabled in Utah and mix them with different running groups? It would give them the chance to experience running, and it gives runners a different running experience.’ It’s different running for someone else, which is why our motto is ‘Our legs, their hearts.’”

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Lendio.com Supports Local Eagle Scout Candidate to Help Children with Disabilities.

Salt Lake City, UT (PRWEB) May 31, 2013

Eagle Scout candidate Zach Child, Push to the Finish, and Lendio participated in the Run Into Spring 5k, Saturday May 25, 2013. The run took place at the J.L. Sorenson Recreation Center, 5350 West Herriman Main Street, Herriman, UT.

Utah-based non-profit Push to the Finish provides opportunities for children with physical disabilities to experience the enjoyment, competition, and sense of accomplishment associated with participating in a road race. Seasoned runners paired with disabled children as they took on a sanctioned 5k race course. A Push to the Finish runner pushed the child from start to finish, covered the entire registration cost, and allowed the child to shine for the day as they wore their numbered running bib and the race’s t-shirt.

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